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St. Patrick's Day myths
St. Patrick


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A brief account of the life of St. Patrick.
 (If you wish to find out more follow the links.)

St. Patrick was born around 387 near a village called Bannavem Taburniae in Roman Britain where his father, a nobleman, had an estate. Scholars are divided over its location, some saying it was in Scotland, others arguing it was in Wales.
His real name was Maewyn Succat which indicates that he was probably born to a Celtic family who were living under Roman rule and who were employed by the Romans. His father Calpurnius was a decurion - either a soldier in charge of ten men in the Roman army or a member of the Roman municipal senate who ran local government. His father was also a deacon and his grandfather Potitus a priest so the family he was brought up in was Christian. The Romans were in Britain from AD 43 to 409, so at the time of his birth British society had been influenced considerably by the Roman way of life. At the age of 16 Maewyn was kidnapped by raiding Irish pirates who attacked his father's estate. He tells in his Confessio how he was one of thousands carried off as slaves.
Tending pigs for an Irish chieftan named Milchu on an isolated mountain (believed to have been Slemish in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland) he turned to prayer for solace and the Christian faith he had been taught as a child became real to him.
He relates in his Confessio how he was told in a dream to go to a port 200 miles away and he would find a way to return home. He tells how he found passage on a ship and arrived 3 days later in a desolate country where by prayer he found a herd of pigs to feed them all when they were hungry. He remained a captive of these people for two months and eventually returned to his family who begged him to stay at home. 
However Patrick had a dream about the people of Ireland calling him to "walk among them once more". In his dream a man called Victoricus who came from the wood of Voclut near the "western sea" (possibly Co.Mayo) gave him many letters.When he read them, Patrick thought he could hear the voices of these people and was very moved. This vision raises some questions. Had Patrick ever been in the west of Ireland, had he known these people before and possibly lived among them for a time? Or was Victor simply a symbolic Irishman? So many questions about the life of Patrick remain unanswered.
Had he remained in Roman Britain instead of having been kidnapped, Patrick, as a nobleman's son, would have undergone the Roman equivalent of a university education and would have been proficient in Latin. He indicates in his Confessio that Latin was not his native language and regrets his lack of education.
This lack of formal learning prevented his being chosen to go to Ireland as a missionary. Not until after he had spent years of study in European monasteries was he finally sent to Ireland in 432 or 433 to replace the missionary bishop Palladius who died in 431. There were already Christians in Ireland when Patrick arrived, according to Scottish chronicler John of Fordun, so he cannot be credited with having brought Christianity to Ireland. However it was Patrick and his disciples who converted the majority of the people of Ireland. The name Patrick probably means nobleman. Roman society was divided into Plebians (or commoners) and Patricians. The Latin word Patricius means nobleman. There is an old Irish rhyme which begins "St. Patrick was a gentleman..."
Read more about St. Patrick in the Catholic  Encyclopedia and these websites - St. Patrick, the man and his life,  Hymn of Fiacc, Life of Patrick of Ireland.